Friday, February 17, 2006

Short Story Time

The three Westerners didn't know each other, but ended up bunched together at the bar. Being a minority in Asia they were naturally drawn to one another.

After telling each other where they worked and what they did for a living, the subject turned to travel stories. This is a common topic of conversation for road warriors, with the game being to one-up the other on the most horrifying travel experience. The high-tech sales guy started off:

"So we're coming into Las Vegas with the gear extended and about to land, but we start to circle for a while - with the wheels extended. It seemed like a long time and people were starting to look at one another. The captain finally comes on and says that the landing gear was extended, but there was no indication it had locked - which means it could collapse on landing. We had already burned up fuel, so we were going in, but that we would assume crash positions and there would be emergency vehicles on the tarmac."


"That's what the woman next to me said. So we put our heads down between our knees and started final approach. Then that woman who was muttering "Jesus" over and over started promising that she wouldn't gamble again if we landed safely. We came down, slowly, slowly, and then hit the runway," he made a smacking sound with his hands, "but the landing gear stuck. Everything else was routine at that point. We taxied to the gate and everyone got of normally. I have a feeling that the woman forgot her promise to Jesus as soon as she got off the plane."

"Mate, that's nothin'" the big Aussie chimed in. One time I was heading from Los Angeles to Dallas when all of the sudden the air masks drop down - on only one side of the cabin!"

"No way."

"Oy. Everyone on the left side of the plane started grabbing for the masks in a big frenzy, wrapping it around their faces. Everyone on the right side - my side of the plane - were looking up in panic because our masks didn't drop down!"

"What did you do?"

"Well, about then the stu comes on and says there's a malfunction and nothing was wrong. They came down the isle and started stuffing the masks back in their slots. If she hadn't come on the speaker I don't know what would have happened. It might have gotten ugly on the plane with 200 people and only a hundred air masks."

The American was wondering what a riot in a flying tube would be like when the quiet engineer began his story.

"We were about thirty minutes out of Amsterdam on a KLM flight when I hear a loud noise. I look out the window and see fire coming out of one of the engines."

"What did you do?"

"What could I do? I sat there and watched it burn. The captain came on and said we lost an engine - as if it wasn't obvious to us - and that he was going to shut it off, drop fuel and circle back in for a landing."

"Did people panic?"

"No. Everyone was pretty calm. And the captain did what he said. We dumped fuel, came back in on three engines, landed like it was no big deal, parked at a gate, and got on another plane with a new crew about four hours later."

"You had no problem getting back on a plane after seeing an engine explode in front of you."

"No, not really."

An older guy at the end of the bar spoke up, his eyes never leaving the drink in front of him. "You boys think you have some bad horror stories. Let me tell you mine."

"Some geniuses in the Pentagon in the early 1960s figured that missiles and radar made dog fighting a thing of the past. So they designed the F-4 Phantom without a machine gun or canon. It was the first fighter plane in history not to have a close-in weapon."

"In the late 1960s the theory was put to the test. Over North Vietnam the Soviet MiGs figured out how to avoid the missiles and come in close - making the long-range systems of the F-4 useless. So I ended up in a dog fight without a weapon."

He turned to the group. "How's that for a plane horror story? Do I win?"

He turned around, got up from the bar, and left without looking back.

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